12.03.2006,1:06 PM
December Full Moon

I rode, therefore I am.

I left the tail bag off Whee to see if there’s a difference in how the bike feels and handles. Either it’s all in my head or it does make a difference; the bike was like a feather between my legs. We flicked side to side like we were on ice skates, flowing into and out of corners and the bike responded to slight movements in my body like my horse does. Turn head, shift weight to the right, duck the shoulder and we swam around a curve like a marble on a roller track.

Ah, something in the road. That’s okay, just lean to the left and flow around it. Coming out of a corner, roll on the throttle while uprighting the bike and scream on ahead to the next one.

I don’t know if it was just a good day or if we were just in sync;
“Trust me and move with me. I’ll take you for a ride, “ my bike whispered.

I wondered if people in their four-wheeled vehicles see the wide sardonic grin inside my helmet. I wonder if they know why its there.

Picking up my electric vest today, I was very excited about being warm in the face of this absence of heat. Now all I have to do is install the fuse box, mount the sockets and wire everything up.

The full moon crested the horizon on my way home. I decided to go back out for a full moon ride and donned extra clothing under my gear. Back on the road, I headed for a spot on a hill that overlooks the areas to the east and north. It’s a gravel road and again I was impressed and thankful for the expansive lighting on the Wee-strom.

Slowly stopping on the crest of the hill, I put the sidestand down, unsnapped and removed my helmet, fished my thick warm gloves out of the tankbag, pulled the balaclava up around my head and face and snuggled the fleece neckwarmer around my neck. I watched the moon climb the sky as the remnants of daylight were engulfed by the darkness of the night.

Sure enough, there in the sky appeared my old friends: the three stars that make up Orion’s belt. The western star of the three is named ‘Mintaka’, which is Arabic for ‘belt’. Alnilam, the center star, means ‘belt of pearls’. The eastern star, Alnitak, is the word for ‘girdle. These stars are 20 times the mass of our Sun with twenty to forty thousand times greater brightness. Nearly the same distance from us, 1500 light years, they were formed around ten million years ago. We can only imagine what surrounds these three brothers as they burn brightly together. For most of us, they are only three stars that form the belt of the great hunter, Orion, son of Neptune and the nymph Eurayle in Greek mythology.

Below Orion’s belt and in the tip of his sword lies a fantastic cluster of stars at all stages of formation: the Orion Nebula. A reddish glow, it can only be seen on a very clear night in the absence of light pollution. I eagerly wanted to see it when I was in Moab and the night sky was virgin with no light pollution. Alas, the constellation of Orion does not rise in the Northern Hemisphere sky until the wee hours of the morning in September and I couldn’t stay awake that long. Even then, the night sky was so populated with stars and planets, we were overwhelmed as we stood craning our heads back and mouths open in awe. The Milky Way alone overpowered our perceptions and left us speechless.

Perhaps when I am down near Big Bend and visit the McDonald Observatory, my wish will be fulfilled.

Gazing at the man-made lights below and the old men of the Universe above me, I smiled at the juxtaposition. The irony of the young life and matter below and upon which I sit on this hill compared to the ancient masses above us made me smile. Here we are so young in this Universe, so immersed in our short life spans that we don’t see or comprehend what has existed before us for millions years. Our sense of time is limited by our short lifespan and further by our shortsighted tendencies. We tend to ignore or forget that what we do now leaves its footprint on this mothership upon which we live and that our baggage and garbage will be shouldered by our children and children’s children. Despite that our species can split atoms, we haven’t found a way to resist destroying in a few moments what took generations to form.

With multicolored lights of the city and town twinkling below, the lit well towers standing like candles on the landscape, and the jewels scattered across the night sky, the bright moon stands as a beacon, a stairway between what lies beyond and below. It is our constant companion as it rotates around our planet, and as the pair rotates around our Sun. Mother Earth and Brother Moon.

The full moon often instills a magical essence as it reflects the Sun’s light to the larger planet below. With help from the Sun, it pulls tides up and forward, by itself it beckons life below to sleepwalk and extends day into night. Whether lunar effects on people have any real scientific basis is controversial, but some of us do not deny that it stirs things within, turning ourselves inside out.

Undeniably, the greater luminescence at night overlays day life over night life for most creatures. Living in the forests and raising livestock for decades revealed nocturnal patterns that empirically confirm that activity is higher during nights of the full moon than any other of its phases. Even with the advent of artificial light that freed us from reliance on daylight, some of us still feel the pull of the full moon and are stirred by its magic.

I’m like the creatures around me, restless under the full moon, unable to sleep. It’s one of my favorite times to go on walkabout and many of my most profound journeys occur during the full moon. I remember looking over the old city of Jerusalem from a nearby hill under a full moon. Feeling suspended in time, knowing the history and feeling the ancient and current turmoil of the country and its people, I felt like an inconsequential spectator of life watching our civilization unfold, overwhelmed with the comprehension of our inherent violence and altruism towards ourselves and each other. Just several weeks before that, the same feeling overtook me as I stood looking down into the grand coliseum in Rome and at the nearby works of art representing our secular humanness, Rome’s churches.

Once long ago, when traveling west across the country from the east for the first time, I sat on the top of a mesa in the Badlands all night and watched life unfold below me. That night I closed a chapter behind me and started a new one; I left one phase of my life and entered a new one and the unknown. I changed over a few hours into a different person and knew then that I could never go back. And realized that I was born on the wrong side of this country. I had entered the West and I felt I was finally ‘home’.

This time, so many years later, I sat on my bike in the chill of the night, gazing below and above, alone yet not lonely. Sometimes there is a solace in being alone, but we are never truly alone. Memories of those we have befriended, loved, lost and those whose paths have crossed ours contribute to who and what we are. Some of us move like shadows across other’s paths, here and then gone; some remain as bright as the stars above me. Looking up I recognized several stars that still brighten my path, no matter where I am. And said goodbye to a few shadows that came and went.

One or two stars made me smile, and I waved to them with a gloved hand. They may or may not know who they are. They follow me every night.
Lyrics from a Metallica song entered my head:
Exit, light
Enter, Night
Take my hand
we're off to never-never land.

When the cold finally gnawed its way through my gear, I exchanged my bulky gloves for the thinner riding ones, pulled on my helmet and started up the engine. With a clunk in the quiet of the night, I rode forward and out onto the tarmac road, heading back home.

With a strange peacefulness of zen inside me, I smiled all the way home.

Photo credit of Orion Nebula: C. O'Dell and S. Wong, Rice University and NASA.

Labels: ,

posted by Macrobe
Permalink ¤